FIGHT ON THE NORTH PLATTE RIVER

From:
ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.

IWA small party of Indians ran off some stock from the vicinity of Fort Laramie in early October, 1866. Lieutenant Bingham, with a detachment from Company C, pursued them on October 3, recaptured the stock, and killed one Indian. Although after a much smaller party, this scouting expedition was performed under the same difficulties as that of Lieutenant Armes the same month, which brought forth the praise of the Department Commander.

Hardly had Company M arrived at Fort Sedgwick in northeastern Colorado when it was called upon to show its mettle. On October 23, Lieutenant Armes, with 25 men from his company, was sent in pursuit of about fifty Sioux Indians who had stampeded a herd of mules and another of oxen near the post. Starting at 4:00 a.m. the detachment traveled until 9:00 p.m., a distance of about ninety miles, when it came upon the Indians encamped in a marsh on the north side of the North Platte. Lieutenant Armes divided his party in order to attack from two directions and to separate the pony herd from the camp. The Indians, who were in their tepees, were taken completely by surprise. When they rushed toward their ponies, the troops barred the way. The latter then proceeded to burn the village and at the same time to drive away the stolen stock and Indian pony herd. The detachment turned home that same night and arrived there the next afternoon, having fought a skirmish and traveled one hundred seventy miles in thirty-seven hours. Because it was necessary to cross the North Platte several times, the men traveled most of the distance in wet clothes. The Indians left on the field four killed and seven wounded, and Lieutenant Armes had two men and ten animals wounded. As a result of this engagement that officer recommended that the revolver be issued to troops.

Fort Sedgwick, Colorado
October 25, 1866

We are in one of our periodic Indian excitements. On Wednesday morning, October 23, Mr. Carlisle reported that his mules, ninety-five in number, had been stampeded by a band of about fifty Indians, thirteen miles east of this place, at twelve o’clock the night before. Captain James P. W. Neill, Eighteenth United States Infantry, Commanding Post, immediately sent Lieutenant Norwood with twenty men of the Second Cavalry, to the scene of the trouble. Shortly after, Mr. J. H. Wall arrived and reported that he had been attacked by the same band, and lost the whole of his stock, nearly one hundred head of fat oxen, and he brought his herder, dangerously wounded by a round musket ball through his chest, to this place. Mr. Wall brought information that the marauders had crossed the Platte and gone north toward Ash Hollow.

Captain Neill at once started Lieutenant Armes and thirty men, of M Company, Second Cavalry, upon a straight line for that point. Before they struck the North Platte, they found the trail, and followed them across the North Platte, and into the bluffs nearly north. Lieutenant Norwood, with the men of his company, had deemed it prudent to turn back upon their arrival at the North Platte, leaving Lieutenant Armes with twenty-three men, to follow on. Although Lieutenant Armes had only one day’s rations, and no forage, he determined to push on at all hazards. After following the trail ten miles, they came in sight of the herd, and although it was dark, he determined to attack at once. He divided his party, and proceed so as to attack from two directions at the same time. The Indians were taken completely by surprise; they were quietly resting in their tepees and upon hearing the cavalry approaching, they rushed out and started for their ponies, where they were met by our party of troops, and received a well aimed volley from the breech loaders when they turned to the tepees for their arms, some being unarmed. By this time the other party was between them and their camp, and gave them a volley, and so they had the red devils between two fires, the boys firing at close range as fast as possible. The Indians who had arms fought like fiends, wounding two of the soldiers. Lieutenant Armes continued the attack as long as a red-skin was visible. The darkness, and some tall grass favored the escape of many of them. Their whole camp, most of their arms, twenty ponies, saddles, bridles and accouterments, and the big war drum and three white scalps were captured. I should have mentioned that soon after crossing the North Platte the trail divided, one party going up the Platte with a portion of the stock . All the stock of the party followed was retaken and brought in, being more than one half of all driven away by the Indians. Lieutenant Armes returned without the loss of a man or horse on the second day, having traveled nearly one hundred miles, and given the Indians the severest punishment that they had received for a year. Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon Captain Neill for his promptness in sending Lieutenant Armes and party out, and certainly the Lieutenant and party, himself and men, deserve all the praise for the exceedingly gallant manner with which they performed their part. This morning, the twenty-fifth, Captain Neill received a letter from Mr. Moore at Valley Station, saying that there were several hundred Cheyenne Indians at his place on their way south, and he was asking for troops. Captain Neill sent him a squad of cavalry, to stay with him till his troublesome visitors should leave.

We have here, now, as garrison at this Post – one company of Infantry and two companies of Cavalry.

From Daily Rocky Mountain News, October 29, 1866.

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